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Guns! Guns! Guns! Guns!
February 3, 2007 6:42 PM   Subscribe

Loaded, an essay that originally appeared in Harper's, argues pro-gun rights from a liberal point of view. Rob Williams the original Negro with Guns, (and who probably won't be appearing in any feel-good Black History Month presentations, might agree.
posted by John of Michigan (97 comments total) 5 users marked this as a favorite

 
From the wikipost: Williams had already started the Black Armed Guard with the National Rifle Association's blessings, to defend the local black community from Klu Klux Klan activity. Black residents fortified their homes with sandbags and resorted to being trained with rifles on hand in the event of night raids by the clan. Followers attested to Williams' advocacy of the use of advanced powerful weaponry instead of more traditional firearms. KKK membership numbered some 15,000 locally at a time when gun ownership was fairly common in the South. Williams insisted his position was defensive in the face of provocation as opposed to a declaration of war: "armed self-reliance" in the face of white terrorism.
posted by John of Michigan at 6:42 PM on February 3, 2007 [1 favorite]


armed self-reliance

Isn't that what North Korea is doing?

That article was good and mirrors my main reason for supporting (reluctantly) the 2nd amendment. Like religion, gun ownership is mostly ruined by fanatics and the uneducated.
posted by furtive at 7:19 PM on February 3, 2007


I hope this statement will be enough said: countries that severely restrict gun rights have many fewer gun deaths than countries that feverishly protect them.

I have some firsthand experience regarding deadly, deadly gun use in an inner city hospital and the violence is at times minority race on minority race and quite often innocent bystander.

Frankly, the essay is sort of hard to read or decipher. It seems like it wants to make a counter-intuitive and accurate point but spends too much time being counter-intuitive to help us understand it.

Nice try I guess.
posted by skepticallypleased at 7:23 PM on February 3, 2007


I hope this statement will be enough said: countries that severely restrict gun rights have many fewer gun deaths than countries that feverishly protect them.
Is that actually true, though?

If I remember correctly, Fahrenheit 9/11 made a seemingly convincing case that the overwhelming difference here was actually "America" versus "non-America", not "strong gun rights" versus "strong gun restrictions".

Something else, it seems, is wrong with the United States.
posted by Flunkie at 7:33 PM on February 3, 2007


I think all liberals should own a gun these days.
posted by kgasmart at 7:40 PM on February 3, 2007


I'm sorry, I think I meant "Bowling for Columbine", not "Fahrenheit 9/11".
posted by Flunkie at 7:41 PM on February 3, 2007


Well, before Michael Moore proceeded to harass him, Charlton Heston said it was because of all the different nationalities in America. There's a grain of truth in that, I think.
posted by Citizen Premier at 7:42 PM on February 3, 2007


I don't remember Moore actually harassing Heston. I remember Heston hoisting himself by his own petard.

I could be misremembering. But I don't remember Moore being impolite or forceful or anything, and I don't remember Heston getting agitated until he himself realized what he had just said.
posted by Flunkie at 7:48 PM on February 3, 2007 [1 favorite]


I'm pretty left leaning, and I have guns.
posted by Balisong at 7:53 PM on February 3, 2007


Nothing feels as satisfying after practicing yoga as cleaning your guns. Or so I've been told.
posted by homunculus at 8:00 PM on February 3, 2007


Haven't had the chance yet to get around to the Harper's link, but thanks for the link concerning Rob Williams. Now I really want to see the film, Negroes With Guns. This is something that aired on PBS? I'd never heard of him: his story is certainly intriguing, one that I'd imagine lots of folks like me (who should have heard of him but hadn't until now) will find of interest.
posted by flapjax at midnite at 8:11 PM on February 3, 2007


I think we may have an uncontrollably large supply of guns in this country at this point.
posted by nanojath at 8:14 PM on February 3, 2007


I'm a liberal (by American standards, anyway), and a big supporter of gun rights. I read this article when it came out in Harper's, and I think it's pretty good.

My reason for owning guns is simple. When it comes down to it, guns are the essence of force. That is to say, they are currently the easiest and most practical method with which an individual can apply the force of arms. Rights are, at their core, meaningless without force to defend them. If you are kidnapped or killed, then you essentially have no rights, and the power of the government to establish or abolish rights also depends upon its ability to force citizens to obey. To me, it's a clear choice between training so that I might be able to defend myself if I had to do so, and hoping that others will appear to do so for me.

Might Makes Right. This is a truth that has never been fully eliminated, much as some may wish it would be. Like Totten says, in this country guns are the only equalizer of might citizens have -- certainly there is little else that can balance the power between citizen and government (or armed citizen and unarmed citizen), especially as our checks-and-balances seem to be going by the wayside. I don't like seeing an increase in paramilitary police raids on the one side, and an increasing unwillingness to arm ourselves on the other!
posted by vorfeed at 8:16 PM on February 3, 2007 [2 favorites]


I think after 8 years of the bush administration, Liberals might be re-considering their views on guns.

I'm in favor of owning guns, but arguing that they make the average person safer is wrong, the fact is owning a gun is a risky thing, and puts people in danger. But it should be their choice.
posted by delmoi at 8:29 PM on February 3, 2007


Robert Williams on peace:

"Nice work if we can get it."

Thanks for the link to the excerpts from Radio Free Dixie broadcasts.
posted by jason's_planet at 8:47 PM on February 3, 2007


Liberals might be re-considering their views on guns

? Like starting to shoot people (who exactly?) is going to improve things?

hint: if you're killing people you've lost the argument.

As a left-libertarian I'm OK with the idea of gun -- of all kinds -- ownership, but the left side of that equation also has no problem with draconian limitations of this right, in the interests of the public safety.

eg. I see no problem with people shooting off their military-grade automatics at designated firing ranges. Hell, that's what the 2nd Amendment is all about IMV.

I don't think out in the real world a concealed firearm is that great an option for anyone, from the personal safety standpoint.
posted by Heywood Mogroot at 9:19 PM on February 3, 2007


That was a well-written and well-reasoned article, but here's my take:

If it ever comes to a situation where I need a gun to defend me or mine, doesn't the vast number of guns in this country suggest that whomever I am defending myself from will also have a piece (or more) of hard iron; thereby negating any advantage my gun would provide me?
posted by Rock Steady at 9:24 PM on February 3, 2007


Rock Steady writes whomever I am defending myself from will also have a piece (or more) of hard iron; thereby negating any advantage my gun would provide me?"

That's why it's called The Great Equalizer, you see. Not the great give-me-an-advantager. If you didn't have one, you'd be SOL for sure.
posted by IronLizard at 9:43 PM on February 3, 2007 [1 favorite]


If you didn't have one, you'd be SOL for sure.

if it gets to that point of civil disorder, you & yours are already SOL, eventually.
posted by Heywood Mogroot at 9:54 PM on February 3, 2007


in this country guns are the only equalizer of might citizens have -- certainly there is little else that can balance the power between citizen and government

We're waiting.
posted by aaronetc at 9:57 PM on February 3, 2007


if it gets to that point of civil disorder, you & yours are already SOL, eventually.

Sure, we're all SOL regardless, in the end. Isn't life pretty much about postponing that point as long as possible?
posted by IronLizard at 10:01 PM on February 3, 2007


hint: if you're killing people you've lost the argument.

Right, but the point is: there's no one left to point that you lost.
posted by delmoi at 10:02 PM on February 3, 2007


Well, before Michael Moore proceeded to harass him, Charlton Heston said it was because of all the different nationalities in America. There's a grain of truth in that, I think.

Right, because all other countries in the world are completely monocultural, and there are no other nations built almost entirely of immigrants. Not one.

Come on.

The UN declared Toronto the most multicutural city on earth, for future reference. And Toronto's crime rate doesn't even rank when compared to those of American cities. I don't think this argument holds any water whatsoever.
posted by Hildegarde at 10:05 PM on February 3, 2007 [2 favorites]


Isn't life pretty much about postponing that point as long as possible?

just trying to point out that these Mad Max survival / Ruby Ridge scenarios are rather inane.

In late 2003 I had a guy break into my place when I was at home. My house-mate loaned me his 9mm Beretta (after we went to the gun range so I could get familiar with it) and the quick-access gunsafe it was kept in. Guns are excellent tools for (possibly) containing a situation until the police arrive, and also quite a fun way to blow stuff up recreationally.

Other than that, I find much silliness in the arguments.
posted by Heywood Mogroot at 10:24 PM on February 3, 2007 [1 favorite]


Other than that, I find much silliness in the arguments.

But they're a great way to kill time :)
posted by IronLizard at 10:29 PM on February 3, 2007


hint: if you're killing people you've lost the argument.

Uh huh. Sure. Tell it to just about every leader in the history of the human race.

Seriously, this idea that our Passive Resistance Heroes were anything but exceptions to the rule is half the reason why we're in such a state in this country. If you're up against someone who is willing to kill, and you're not, then guess what? All your good intentions and noble causes don't matter, because you're dead. This applies to you, it applies to me, and it seems to have applied to MLK and Gandhi, too -- and you and I are not Gandhi, so nobody is going to give a shit when we turn up dead. How many thousands of people do the cops kill every year? Look out the window, are they anywhere close to "losing the argument"? Not the last time I checked.

What we need is more people willing to fight and kill, not fewer. Not killing people hasn't kept Americans from losing the argument so far... but I'm pretty sure we'd see some more respect for citizen rights if every other one of these paramilitary raids or un-Constitutional power grabs ended in a firefight. At the very least, it would have some effect, unlike our current strategy of politely asking for what we want, and just as politely being ignored in favor of those with actual power. "Oh, pwetty pwease, down't make Amewica a powlice state!" Yeah, I'm sure that's going to work any day now, just keep it up. And, uh, do you mind moving it to the designated Free Speech Zone? Don't forget to vote for your free choice™ of Corporate Candidate One or Corporate Candidate Two! Thank you, citizen, move along!
posted by vorfeed at 11:29 PM on February 3, 2007


delmoi : I think after 8 years of the bush administration, Liberals might be re-considering their views on guns.

Six, but I know that's what you meant, so we'll leave it.

And I desperately want you to be correct. I so want the Left to move beyond this petty obsession that guns are the enemy and realize that it is what has created this country. Really. Love it or not, it is the thing that made our country, Our country.
posted by quin at 11:40 PM on February 3, 2007


quin:

And I desperately want you to be correct. I so want the Left to move beyond this petty obsession that guns are the enemy and realize that it is what has created this country. Really. Love it or not, it is the thing that made our country, Our country.

I haven't yet read the essay, but your comment stood out to me. Perhaps I've misunderstood your meaning, but are you suggesting that the fact that guns helped forge United States means we should be allowed to keep them?

I just don't see the connection.

Guns are incredibly powerful tools. They sometimes enable one group of primates to gain dominance over another group of primates.

Sometimes the dominant group then acts in good ways, and sometimes it acts in bad ways.

Perhaps you're suggesting that guns should be allowed so that the average american civilian has some way to (collectively) veto a government which has gone rotten?

In order for that to happen, we'd need to legalize RPG's, AK-47's, and IED's, as those are probably the only weapons that would be effective against an organized military.

Then again, perhaps I've misunderstood your meaning.
posted by spacediver at 11:50 PM on February 3, 2007


Fascinating to read about Williams, thanks.
I was interested to see he spent part of his time in exile in China, and tried searching for anything in Chinese about him or his time here, but couldn't come up with of anything of substance, just this picture of him meeting Mao.
posted by Abiezer at 12:09 AM on February 4, 2007


vorfeed
You really think that's the solution? More killing? That's the entire point of a democracy, that people can share power and that power can change hands without a civil war happening every time. People should start killing every time they feel their rights are threatened, or that the Constitution is being run over? Who gets to decide when that happens? You seem to be cool when it's those you agree with, but what about the guy who decides those damn acitvist judges have crossed the line and are taking his rights, and he's not going to take it anymore, or the guy who decides that the government allowing abortion is an abomination, or hell, anyone who believes anything. The point of our system is that we don't want some sort of horrific Hobbesian world of constant killing as various people and groups struggle for power. The beauty of our system is that if you don't like things, work to change it. You sit here typing on your computer advocating murder. Why not get out there and see what kind of difference you can make through political action, volunteer work, etc? Getting angry is cool and all, but blind rage doesn't help anything.

This comment is aimed specifically at the idea that guns are somehow supposed to be political tools. We are lucky enough to live in places where we can make change without violence, so these silly calls for revolution are completely ridiculous and counterproductive. Spend that energy trying to get people behind you to get the votes you need. Throwing a tantrum because that's hard is just stupid. Things have been bad in the past, and they've gotten better, and they'll be bad again in the future. We just need to keep working at improving things.

And finally, I'm not sure I buy the "great equalizer" arguments. If the government really wanted to crack down on the population, it would be impossible to stop them. You wouldn't be just fighting the cops, you'd be fighting the military, on its home turf, with virtually unlimited access to supplies and reinforcements, and unfettred mobility. It then just becomes a question of how brutal this hypothetical power grab would be. If they just didn't give a fuck about what they did, your hand gun isn't going to do anything before the might of the American military. Even if they wanted to show restraint, it's not going to do you much good. The fact is that in the 18th century, citizens with guns really could pose a threat to a force that had more manpower and more money but had access to only essentially the same types of weaponry and transportation. In the modern world, the balance of power is enormously skewed towards the organized state that it's impossible for citizens to fight it.
posted by Sangermaine at 12:38 AM on February 4, 2007 [1 favorite]


spacediver : but are you suggesting that the fact that guns helped forge United States means we should be allowed to keep them?

Yeah. I most certainly am suggesting that. The American Revolution was waged with guns, swords, knives, tomahawks, spears, bayonets and all manners of badness. We didn't get this country by asking. We took it by force. Much blood was spilled on both sides. And those that fought to make this country work felt it was important enough that they wrote a point in about people keeping those same tools. It was right after the point about us being able to speak our minds.

I just don't see the connection.

Keep reading. It's good stuff.

Guns are incredibly powerful tools.

No argument. See my above points.

They sometimes enable one group of primates to gain dominance over another group of primates.

Yes. I saw that Kubrick film as well. Only I remember it being a bone.

Oh, were you making a snarky point? Were you trying to make an analogous comparison between guns and rocks or clubs or something? Because I might have missed the subtlety of that connection. I mean all I saw was you making a very good point about human nature. From the very beginning and all.

Sometimes the dominant group then acts in good ways, and sometimes it acts in bad ways.

And thus we switch to Poli-Sci, or maybe you were going for psychology. Or maybe, just maybe you were bringing up the whole of human history point I mentioned above.

This statement is so broad and correct, I will let it stand without further comment.

Perhaps you're suggesting that guns should be allowed so that the average american civilian has some way to (collectively) veto a government which has gone rotten?

You jest. But I've actually made that point here before. From my read of Jefferson, that is what the whole point of the Second Amendment is for. From the perspective of the founding fathers, owning a gun has nothing to do with hunting or protecting yourself. They wanted us to arm ourselves to kill (yes kill) any group or party that would try to interpose themselves between us and our freedom.

The sad thing is that we've lost that passion. We are happy to sit by and watch the Superbowl if it means that we don't have to care where our privacy and Habeas Corpus went.

In order for that to happen, we'd need to legalize RPG's, AK-47's, and IED's, as those are probably the only weapons that would be effective against an organized military.

Yup. People don't think that a small arms force could ever stand up to a modern military force. They are relearning that point in Iraq today. To the sorrow of many.

Then again, perhaps I've misunderstood your meaning.

You may have misunderstood my meaning. I hope this clears it up.
posted by quin at 12:38 AM on February 4, 2007


Sangermaine : This comment is aimed specifically at the idea that guns are somehow supposed to be political tools.

At the time when the Constitution was written, guns were the primary political tool. Really. They were. It may not be politically correct to say in this day and age, but the framers of our rules that defined this country were mostly soldiers that had just fought in a war, with guns, to free us from a controlling power.

Is there something about this concept that modern Americans have trouble following?
posted by quin at 12:45 AM on February 4, 2007


In order for that to happen, we'd need to legalize RPG's, AK-47's, and IED's, as those are probably the only weapons that would be effective against an organized military.

spacediver, this is exactly the intention of the 2nd amendment. It seems extreme to you today, but the idea at the time was that "every terrible implement of the soldier" was the American's "birthright."
posted by knave at 1:21 AM on February 4, 2007


If you're up against someone who is willing to kil

whoops, looks like someone escaped out of the Koresh compound after all. . .
posted by Heywood Mogroot at 2:22 AM on February 4, 2007


Is there something about this concept that modern Americans have trouble following?

Is there something about this not being the 18th century that gun nuts have trouble understanding?
posted by Heywood Mogroot at 2:23 AM on February 4, 2007 [1 favorite]


At the time when the Constitution was written, guns were the primary political tool.

Worked rilly well with the Whiskey Rebellion, too!
The rebels "could never be found," according to Jefferson, but the militia expended considerable effort rounding up 20 prisoners, clearly demonstrating Federalist authority in the national government. The men were imprisoned, where one died, while two were convicted of treason and sentenced to death by hanging. Washington, however, pardoned them on the grounds that one was a "simpleton," and the other, "insane."
plus ça change. . .
posted by Heywood Mogroot at 2:32 AM on February 4, 2007


Liberals worrying about death-by-gun are like conservatives worrying about death-by-terrorist. You should both be more worried about car accidents and heart disease.
posted by hoverboards don't work on water at 3:12 AM on February 4, 2007 [2 favorites]


actually a lot of these gun laws have been prompted by cops wanting to do their jobs without having to go out dressed out like Marine Infantry.
posted by Heywood Mogroot at 3:27 AM on February 4, 2007


Anyone who owns firearms for reasons other than hunting and sport shooting (neither of which I do) has admitted that he or she. is willing to kill another human being

Untrue. Owning a firearm is an admission that you think you might be able to kill another person.

When it comes down to it many people are simply unable to do this. Even with all their training, new recruits in the army are quite likely to shoot over the heads of their targets for the first few real engagements.

If I were faced with someone trying to mug me I don't know if I would be able to kill them. The mugger would be less likely to have this problem and could shoot me as soon as I wavered, or even drew a weapon. Given that, I'd far rather hand over my possessions than start a fire fight in which I might die.
posted by Olli at 3:27 AM on February 4, 2007


I'm a pro-gun liberal myself. Partly because it is in the constitution, so I support it until it is amended, and partly because I dont buy into the effectiveness of gun control. We have 200 million guns in this country, and a violent culture. I'd guess that it would take 800 years of serious gun control to put a dent in that. If it is possible at all.
posted by BrotherCaine at 6:41 AM on February 4, 2007


>> armed self-reliance
>
> Isn't that what North Korea is doing?

And isn't it working!
posted by jfuller at 6:52 AM on February 4, 2007


jfuller: And how!
posted by furtive at 7:24 AM on February 4, 2007


Let's see a show of hands - how many read the article? Hmmm... I thought so.

You cannot invade the United States. There would be a rifle behind each blade of grass.-Admiral Isoroku Yamamoto

The Admiral had it right about Americans during WWII - we would have made the Iraqi "insurgents" look like Keystone Cops if Japan had tried to invade.

Today - not so much. Too many folks these days seem to have the mistaken idea that if all guns disappeared from citizen hands, the world would turn into a Disney movie. I wish most humans weren't the power crazed assholes that they are, but that doesn't change anything. Confronting reality with your eyes shut is a dangerous game.

And Yamamoto - he was shot out of the sky by Americans with guns.
posted by Enron Hubbard at 8:06 AM on February 4, 2007


armed libertarian here! the second amendment is much more than a constitutional abstraction in my house.

i suspect that the anti-gun liberals feel this way because they feel more sympathy and support for the criminals than they do for me.
posted by bruce at 8:10 AM on February 4, 2007


i suspect that the anti-gun liberals feel this way because they feel more sympathy and support for the criminals than they do for me.

Right. That's it.
posted by atrazine at 9:06 AM on February 4, 2007


quin: thanks for the reply:

Yes. I saw that Kubrick film as well. Only I remember it being a bone.

Oh, were you making a snarky point? Were you trying to make an analogous comparison between guns and rocks or clubs or something?


I was referring to us as primates. Just speaking on anthropological terms to perhaps inspire an insight. (btw nothing in my post was snarky or in jest - was being genuine with all my points!)

You jest. But I've actually made that point here before. From my read of Jefferson, that is what the whole point of the Second Amendment is for. From the perspective of the founding fathers, owning a gun has nothing to do with hunting or protecting yourself. They wanted us to arm ourselves to kill (yes kill) any group or party that would try to interpose themselves between us and our freedom.

Ah but see my point about IED's and AK-47s and RPGs (which I'll bring up next)

Yup. People don't think that a small arms force could ever stand up to a modern military force. They are relearning that point in Iraq today. To the sorrow of many.

If by small arms you mean hand guns and rifles, then no - I don't believe they're a significant factor in Iraq.

It's RPGs, IED's and AK-47's which are causing the most damage to the american military, with an emphasis on the first two.

Read some of the War Nerd's stuff here:

( damn, www.exile.ru is down for now, will link when it comes back up)
posted by spacediver at 9:35 AM on February 4, 2007


here we go:

http://www.exile.ru/2004-April-29/war_nerd.html

But eventually I had to face the facts: most of those weapons are never going to get used. If you look at all the real wars going on right now, you come across the same two weapons, over and over: the AK-47 and the RPG-7 -- both Russian designs, and both older than your Dad.

They're the weapons that matter, because they're already out there, millions of units, enough to equip every guerrilla army in the world, simple enough that you can teach a peasant kid with hookworm and a room-temperature IQ to fire them, and cheap enough to buy in bulk.

And the RPG is the best of all, even better than the Kalashnikov. This simple little beauty just keeps getting more and more effective. This cheap little dealie, nothing but a launcher tube and a few rockets shaped like two ice-cream cones glued together, has kicked our ass (and Russia's too) all over the world since back when the Beatles were still together. In fact, more and more guerrilla armies are making the RPG their basic infantry weapon, with the AK used to protect the RPG gunners, who provide the offensive punch. The Chechens fighting the Russian Army are so high on it that they've switched their three-man combat teams from two riflemen and an RPG gunner to two RPG gunners with a rifleman to protect them.

There's another stat that's even more important right now: the RPG has inflicted more than half -- half! -- of US casualties in Iraq. This is the weapon that's hurting us. And it's been doing that for one hell of a long time.


here's another good one:

http://www.exile.ru/2005-November-04/ieds_the_lazy_mans_insurgency.html

here are three more which give excellent insight into asymmetrical warfare:

http://www.exile.ru/2006-November-03/the_doctrine_of_asymmetrical_war.html

http://www.exile.ru/2006-November-17/how_to_win_in_iraq.html

More of his stuff here:

http://www.exile.ru/archive/by_author/gary_brecher.html

http://www.exile.ru/2005-May-20/war_nerd.html
posted by spacediver at 9:42 AM on February 4, 2007


doh sorry - forgot the aref tag thingies.
posted by spacediver at 9:42 AM on February 4, 2007


You know spacediver, my original reply is way more strident than it needs to be, for that I'm sorry. You on the other hand, have been nothing but civil. Well done.

But on topic: I think the disconnect we are having on one point is the term 'small arms', I consider small arms to be part of the same classification as 'light weapons.' Read as: man portable. So I do include RPGs and machine guns in that category. IEDs are a bit trickier, because they can range in size from hand grenade to 500lb bomb. But in general, I feel that the defense the Iraqis are currently mounting against us could be classified as a small arms conflict. Obviously you classify them as something else and hence part of our disagreement.

The thrust of my ire was directed at your statement that you didn't believe that the framers would have intended for us to keep the very weapons that had bought us our freedom.

I still think you are wrong on this point, but allow me to restate in a less confrontational tone:

Based on my understanding of the feeling of the founding forefathers, and what they had gone through in order to secure the freedom of their country, I believe that they would have wanted us to maintain that ability in the future. I say this because they felt is was penned into their amendments second only to our right to speak freely.

I hope that reads a bit better.
posted by quin at 10:20 AM on February 4, 2007


Thanks Quin.

two points:

1)

No I never meant to make any claims as to the intentions of the framers (I'm don't even live in the US and am largely ignorant on a lot of the history and founding events).

In fact, I'm rather certain that the founding figures intended for US civilians to have the right to bear arms precisely for the reasons you state.

(what made you think that I didn't believe that "the framers would have intended for us to keep the very weapons that had bought us our freedom"?)

2) Whether or not we classify RPGs, AK 47s, and IEDs as small arms is irrelevant isn't it? In order for that to be relevant, possession of all three of those weapons would have to be legal, and I don't think they are.

(now if you are making an argument for making these sorts of weapons legal, then we can advance in our discourse).
posted by spacediver at 10:28 AM on February 4, 2007


armed libertarian here!

Was I the only one who shuddered in terror reading that?
posted by Astro Zombie at 11:27 AM on February 4, 2007


The government fears your laptop more than your gun.
posted by kid ichorous at 11:42 AM on February 4, 2007


Over here in the good ol' United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland (shortly to become the People's Socialist Republic of Scotland, the Federated States of Ireland, and quite possibly Independent Londonia the way things are going), we don't do that gun thing. Even the police don't do that gun thing, unless the naughty people have tooled up first.

Moreover, virtually nobody wants to do that gun thing. There is no British chapter of the NRA. We have a lot fewer people killed by guns (a lot fewer people killed full stop - or period, if you're reading this in Shootersville), and it seems to us that all these facts are related.

What are we getting wrong, pro-gun people? Should we be agitating for the right to arm bears? Will it make us safer? Or is it an aspect of American culture that is forever unique?
posted by Devonian at 11:59 AM on February 4, 2007


What are we getting wrong, pro-gun people?

Haven't Londoners just exchanged one kind of "getting shot" for another - administered by a firing squad of surveillance cameras on every block. You really think that's something to be proud of?
posted by kid ichorous at 12:15 PM on February 4, 2007 [1 favorite]


spacediver : (what made you think that I didn't believe that "the framers would have intended for us to keep the very weapons that had bought us our freedom"?)

I think it was this line that led me to that conclusion:

I haven't yet read the essay, but your comment stood out to me. Perhaps I've misunderstood your meaning, but are you suggesting that the fact that guns helped forge United States means we should be allowed to keep them?

I just don't see the connection.


---

2) Whether or not we classify RPGs, AK 47s, and IEDs as small arms is irrelevant isn't it? In order for that to be relevant, possession of all three of those weapons would have to be legal, and I don't think they are.

(now if you are making an argument for making these sorts of weapons legal, then we can advance in our discourse).


In most places in the US, AK47s are legal, however not in it's fully automatic configuration. RPGs are illegal, and IEDs while also illegal, are by their definition impossible to regulate. They are improvised, and therefor conceivably accessible to anyone who wanted to build one.

Giving these tools to the populace would certainly have disastrous results. But then, that we don't have them may have also produced disastrous results, just in someone else's back yard.
posted by quin at 12:22 PM on February 4, 2007


Giving these tools to the populace would certainly have disastrous results. But then, that we don't have them may have also produced disastrous results, just in someone else's back yard.

I don't follow that bit about the back yard.

and are you arguing we should allow people to buy RPG's?

(i'm sincerely trying to understand your arguments here - and am willing to change my mind or least develop a more open minded approach)
posted by spacediver at 12:27 PM on February 4, 2007


I may be naive, but as far as home protection goes I dont see what people honestly think a gun will achieve that a taser or a stun gun wont. You might have to get a little closer yeah, but on the other hand if little Timmy finds your taser the worst he'll do is hit his friend Jack with 50k volts, at which point Jack will hopefully wet himself and pass out, leading to hilarity for the whole family.
posted by supercrayon at 12:50 PM on February 4, 2007


If the government really wanted to crack down on the population, it would be impossible to stop them. You wouldn't be just fighting the cops, you'd be fighting the military, on its home turf, with virtually unlimited access to supplies and reinforcements, and unfettred mobility.

I agree, what the hell good is a gun going to do against a force armed with you know, tanks and planes and bombs and whatnot?
posted by supercrayon at 12:52 PM on February 4, 2007


not gonna do anything. The only thing that will keep the military at bay will be standard guerilla tactics.

And it will be a long bloody drawn out process, and everyone will have to be involved whether they like it or not.

And it's not gonna end with a coup, unless the military itself aligns itself against the government.

In which case the argument for arming civilians becomes moot.
posted by spacediver at 1:03 PM on February 4, 2007


We are lucky enough to live in places where we can make change without violence

This is, quite frankly, bullshit. We can "make change" so long as that change does not actually involve anything substantial -- we have all of two parties, both of which have largely the same philosophy and the same platform, and get their money from the same sources. How is any legal action going to "make change" when the system has clearly been fixed? Did you miss the fact that the last two presidential elections were actually stolen? Add this to the continual attempts to centralize power in the executive branch, and what do you get? NOT a country in which voting is going to gain us anything the powers-that-be don't want it to.

That said, I DO try to use the legal route, with donations, political action, volunteer work, etc. I just don't have any illusions about how much those things can do to really create change.

And finally, I'm not sure I buy the "great equalizer" arguments. If the government really wanted to crack down on the population, it would be impossible to stop them.

Right now, the government wants to crack down on a bunch of foreigners armed with leftover Soviet scraps. And they can't do it. If you think our army could somehow win against a thousand local opposition groups made up of their own people, through anything short of bombing the entire country flat, then we'll just have to agree to disagree. In urban situations where the use of artillery and bombs are inappropriate, people with small arms can and do hold their ground against invaders. That goes double when they have some backup from military people... and I very seriously doubt that the whole of the US military and police force could be made to attack their own country. I see an awful lot of cops and soldiers down at the local gun shop -- these guys are a big part of the America-first, pry-it-from-my-cold-dead-hands gun culture in this country.

I agree, what the hell good is a gun going to do against a force armed with you know, tanks and planes and bombs and whatnot?

Tanks and planes and bombs only work if you are willing to utterly destroy both the target and everything around it. If you want to keep the infrastructure and most of the people, but you want to kill a certain number of fighters who are hiding amongst the people, then you must send a man with a gun. If he is shot, that man will die just as easily as you or I, and then his gun and equipment belong to the enemy. All our technology up to this point hasn't been able to change this.

The only thing that will keep the military at bay will be standard guerilla tactics.

Very true. That being so, your argument seems to be that we should, under no circumstances, obtain something that will make guerilla tactics more viable. I don't get that.
posted by vorfeed at 1:20 PM on February 4, 2007 [1 favorite]


Very true. That being so, your argument seems to be that we should, under no circumstances, obtain something that will make guerilla tactics more viable. I don't get that.

No, I've never made that claim. I'm actually willing to concede that enabling a viable counterinsurgency might actually be a rational option.

Of course, i'd love to discuss and reflect upon this.

My point is that, given my limited knowledge about the nature of warfare and insurgencies, hand guns are next to worthless as a means to overthrow or resist a government like the U.S.

A subsidiary point is that I strongly suspect that much of what drives most people to arm themselves is [i]not[/i] for the rationale being discussed here. (though I may well be wrong)
posted by spacediver at 1:27 PM on February 4, 2007


My point is that, given my limited knowledge about the nature of warfare and insurgencies, hand guns are next to worthless as a means to overthrow or resist a government like the U.S.

Yes, but handguns aren't really what people would be using in an insurgency. Handguns are mainly defensive weapons, meant for stopping someone who is right close to you without also shooting whatever is behind him. Most handguns suitable for concealment are inaccurate past about 25 yards. They might be good for stopping muggers or home invaders, or perhaps for ambush or surprise, but they are not suitable as a primary weapon in war.

Thus, the old military saying: "You have handguns so you can fight your way back to your rifles". Every town probably has some deer hunters in it, and deer hunters mean semiautomatic rifles. For example, there are probably 100+ people with semiautomatic rifles in my town, plus a handful with (legal) fully automatic rifles like AR-15s. I'd guess that just about every town in New Mexico has a similar ratio of arms in it, and when I lived over by the National Guard armory, most people in town knew where it was. You might be surprised by how well-armed America really is, despite our recent years of complacency.

Hell, the sporting-goods section of the average Wal*Mart would be a pretty good start for a local insurgent group. From just the display case, you'd get about 10-20 semiautomatic hunting rifles, maybe 5-10 shotguns with decent capacity, and tons of ammunition. And the back of the store probably has two or three more for every gun in the display case. I'd wager that most small towns in America are within 30 miles of at least one store with that many weapons in it, and the average medium-sized city (500,000 population) probably has more like forty or fifty such stores. Many places (even mainstream ones like Big 5 Sporting Goods) sell surplus military rifles. And that's not counting the guns people already own!

A subsidiary point is that I strongly suspect that much of what drives most people to arm themselves is not for the rationale being discussed here. (though I may well be wrong)

Very true. Like I said earlier, Might Makes Right, and many people (including me) aren't comfortable with being on the wrong side of that equation, even if nobody's fighting at the moment.
posted by vorfeed at 2:36 PM on February 4, 2007


I don't know what to say, vorfeed, except if it gets to the point in the United States where I have to fight my way with handguns to a WalMart, I'm just going to go north to Canada.
posted by Astro Zombie at 2:51 PM on February 4, 2007


I may be naive, but as far as home protection goes I dont see what people honestly think a gun will achieve that a taser or a stun gun wont

The point of having a handgun at hand is not to fire it, but to intimidate the intruder. I have been trained to let the home intruder know I have the gun, but only point it at him when I intend to stop/kill the person. (I use the masculine here since I don't think I would have to defend myself that way against a woman).

Might Makes Right

And Right Makes Might. If your cause is just (enough) you'll have more munitions than you will know what to do with, since, believe it or not, the gummint is actually made of people like us.
posted by Heywood Mogroot at 2:52 PM on February 4, 2007


Yes, but handguns aren't really what people would be using in an insurgency. Handguns are mainly defensive weapons, meant for stopping someone who is right close to you without also shooting whatever is behind him. Most handguns suitable for concealment are inaccurate past about 25 yards. They might be good for stopping muggers or home invaders, or perhaps for ambush or surprise, but they are not suitable as a primary weapon in war.

Vorfeed, I'm not sure if you've been following my arguments carefully, but that's exactly the point I made.

What did I say to suggest that handguns are effective?
posted by spacediver at 2:56 PM on February 4, 2007


Just to clarify - I thought we were arguing about the rationale for allowing civilians to arm themselves with handguns.

And people seem to be saying that it's good so that they can use those guns to overthrow a rotten government.

To which I respond: but handguns are worthless in such a context.

Have I missed anything?
posted by spacediver at 2:58 PM on February 4, 2007


There is no British chapter of the NRA

There is a British National Rifle Association, but it does not have the same political objectives as the American one.
posted by atrazine at 4:23 PM on February 4, 2007


I thought we were arguing about the rationale for allowing civilians to arm themselves

Maybe here's where we can find some common ground. People wanting to do something don't need to find a legal "rationale".

The onus is on the State to provide the rationale for removing or restricting this freedom.
posted by Heywood Mogroot at 4:57 PM on February 4, 2007


Maybe here's where we can find some common ground. People wanting to do something don't need to find a legal "rationale".

The onus is on the State to provide the rationale for removing or restricting this freedom.


Not sure I follow you here.

Can you rephrase your point?
posted by spacediver at 7:05 PM on February 4, 2007


"The UN declared Toronto the most multicutural city on earth, for future reference. And Toronto's crime rate doesn't even rank when compared to those of American cities. I don't think this argument holds any water whatsoever."

And Time magazine voted Sacramento, CA as the most culturally diverse city in the United States. Sacramento's crime rate is lower than Toronto's crime rate across the board.

Canada isn't a perfect little utopia either.

"worst he'll do is hit his friend Jack with 50k volts, at which point Jack will hopefully wet himself and pass out, leading to hilarity for the whole family."

I don't know. When it happens to some jackass college student, we all cry about how evil tasers are and how his civil rights were violated.

I'm a liberal guy that owns guns. I'm also an NRA member. It's educational to read both sides of the debate. Keep in mind that many many NRA members are very conscious about firearm safety and aren't just 'we want to shoot everything' types.

Besides, shooting old hard drives is fun. Especially since I cannot legally own most explosives in California.
posted by drstein at 7:22 PM on February 4, 2007


Can you rephrase your point?

I found this:

"the rationale for allowing civilians to arm themselves"

to be objectionable. A Free People have the common-law right to do whatever they want. Government -- the State -- is established to secure these rights.

Government levels certainly have constitutional powers to secure the public safety etc, but I believe the Lawrence SCOTUS case reaffirmed the doctrine of Judicial Review striking down discriminatory laws (on the basis that they had no rational public policy foundation).

So my point is that those who wish to limit my right to blow shit up with an MP-5 are the ones who have to come up with legal "rationales", not me.
posted by Heywood Mogroot at 7:44 PM on February 4, 2007 [1 favorite]


do a free people have the common-law right to bear nuclear arms?

or chemical weapons?

or to torture neighbours whenever their cooking smells?

(not trying to be facetious here, just genuinely trying to understand your point here - i'm really ignorant about legal systems)
posted by spacediver at 8:12 PM on February 4, 2007


basically my right to swing my fist ends at someone's nose.

What makes WMDs illegal are their threats to the public safety.

Torture of course is a no-no since in civilized society we all give the State the monopoly on violence.

The US Constitution (along with the Federalist Papers) is a wonderful document.

Theoretically, and unfortunately this doctrine is under attack by the present administration and past courts (who simply believe the Ninth Amendment is a "dead letter") our negative rights to Life, Liberty, & the Pursuit of Happiness is plenary, and the State is only granted particular Powers by the Constitution to limit these rights.

As a left-libertarian I have no real problem with the State limiting my freedoms if & when it makes policy sense (public order, decency, safety, etc) to do so.

This is why I'm not up in arms about (state-level) "Gun Control", the anti-drug laws (I'm not convinced a pot-head society would be better evolution than what we have now), etc.

IIRC the Lawrence case overturned a Texas state law outlawing sodomy, since their was no rational public policy basis for this law.
posted by Heywood Mogroot at 9:49 PM on February 4, 2007


Just to clarify - I thought we were arguing about the rationale for allowing civilians to arm themselves with handguns.

And people seem to be saying that it's good so that they can use those guns to overthrow a rotten government.

To which I respond: but handguns are worthless in such a context.


I wasn't talking just about handgun rights, but about guns in general, so I was confused about your point. Sorry about that.

That said, handguns are definitely NOT useless in such a context. They're not anywhere near as useful in war as rifles, but they are still useful. For example, they are indispensable when you need concealment (for example, if citizens were to try to infiltrate a prison or army camp, it would probably be impossible to bring rifles). They are also good for close-quarters fighting, and for home defense. Don't forget that the government is not just represented by the military -- if you need to defend yourself against the police, you will probably be doing so inside your home, so you will need either a handgun or a shotgun rather than a rifle. Unless, of course, you don't mind if the round goes right through the invader and ends up 300 yards away in somebody else's sternum.

That said, I think the self-defense angle is by far the best reason for allowing handguns. Most states allow their citizens to use deadly force to defend their own lives, and a handgun is clearly the best overall tool for this purpose. Shotguns are better in terms of stopping power, but you can't carry a shotgun with you during daily life, and you can't easily hide it in your home. Handguns are a much better balance between power and size.

In short, every type of gun has its strengths and weaknesses, so you can't really say that this-or-that gun is worthless for defense or offense. Depending on the situation, I'd much rather have my rifle than my handgun, or vice-versa... and even a target-style .22 handgun is better than nothing.
posted by vorfeed at 10:19 PM on February 4, 2007


Heywood:

basically my right to swing my fist ends at someone's nose

I'm sure there are coherent arguments to be made about why lax gun control actually does cause more harm than good for the general public.

re pothead society, I highly recommend this lovely talk by Michael Pollen, entitled

Cannabis, Forgetting, and the Botany of Desire with Michael Pollan

It may broaden your perspective (assuming it needs to be broadened in the first place)

Vorfeed:

about the self defense - from what I understand, the number of lives saved from such scenarios are pretty rare, especially when compared to the numbers of lives lost due to legally owned guns.

Then again, my understanding is not based on a careful analysis of data, but rather from what I've heard from second hand sources.
posted by spacediver at 10:58 PM on February 4, 2007


I'm sure there are coherent arguments to be made about why lax gun control actually does cause more harm than good for the general public.

Of course; that's why I'm not worked up about (state-level) restrictions on ownership. Federal-level gun laws need to pass the Commerce Clause test, which the SCOTUS (wisely, IMV) resurrected in the 1995 Lopez decision that threw out a Federal law concerning guns on/near school grounds.

In a decision from the 1930s that the court today would most certainly like to forget its predecessor had made, it held that a criminal-type dude didn't have a constitutional right to a sawed-off shotgun since that weapon was not a useful weapon militarily. Ooops.

But improving Public Safety alone isn't a good enough basis for limiting freedom. We could institute a 35 MPH speed limit, and that would save tens of thousands of lives each year.

if you need to defend yourself against the police, you will probably be doing so inside your home

The view from your residence in FantasyLand must be incredible.
posted by Heywood Mogroot at 11:15 PM on February 4, 2007


But improving Public Safety alone isn't a good enough basis for limiting freedom. We could institute a 35 MPH speed limit, and that would save tens of thousands of lives each year.

Right - the economic costs alone of a 35 mph speed limit are pretty significant, as are the psychological ones.

Same sorta reason we don't have a gov't employee strip search every citizen every day.

However, I think we can agree that when something causes more harm then good, it is appropriate to judge it as harmful. Now when we factor in the harms intrinsic to making it illegal (sense of violation of freedoms, etc.) and the harm still outweighs the good, then would you say that it's a good thing to legislate against it?

So let's say we have the following:

Harms of having lax gun laws:

more deaths


Harms of having strict gun laws:

more blackmarket
sense of violation of freedom experienced by those who wish to use the guns for their own ends


if the harms of having lax gun laws outweigh those of having strict laws, then do you think that a (state) society should enforce strict laws?
posted by spacediver at 11:46 PM on February 4, 2007


Well, lets see.

The UK implemented extensive gun control in the 90's. Violent crime quadrupled.

Really doesn't get much simpler than that.
posted by effugas at 2:20 AM on February 5, 2007


The UK implemented extensive gun control in the 90's. Violent crime quadrupled.

I suspect you're using police recorded crime statistics while not realising that the police started recording common assault as a violent crime in 1998. Since then they've also revised their counting rules to give a better (higher) estimate of true crime.

If you use the BCS violent crime statistics you'll find violent crime spiked around the late 90s and has decreased since.
posted by Olli at 3:00 AM on February 5, 2007


Conservatives and Liberals who require that people justify the rights that they want from the State are equally the enemies of liberty.

All of my rights, and yours too if you have any spine, are ours by natural right, not because we've convinced anyone we need the rights.

Whether it's gay marriage or gun ownership, I don't have to convince anyone that I deserve the right. You all have to show, beyond all reasonable doubt, that the State can't survive my exercise of a particular natural right in order for us to even begin to discuss limiting it, let alone taking it.

If I want to gay marriage up and own an uzi, then the State must demonstrate that there can be no State if I do, which it can't.

Stop arguing that we deserve rights. Start demanding that we have them back.
posted by ewkpates at 3:51 AM on February 5, 2007 [1 favorite]


"And I desperately want you to be correct. I so want the Left to move beyond this petty obsession that guns are the enemy and realize that it is what has created this country. Really. Love it or not, it is the thing that made our country, Our country."

Won't happen— Nanny state soccer moms control platforms.

"That's the entire point of a democracy, that people can share power and that power can change hands without a civil war happening every time."

You, sir, are obviously not a political scientist. The first point of a democracy was the effective defense of the city-state. Further, the traditional argument AGAINST democracies has been that they are unstable, violent and corrupt.

"The point of our system is that we don't want some sort of horrific Hobbesian world of constant killing as various people and groups struggle for power."

And you don't know your Hobbes. That's an argument against democracy, in that only the strength of an extra-legal (covenant, not contract) sovereign can guarantee our safety.

"The beauty of our system is that if you don't like things, work to change it. You sit here typing on your computer advocating murder. Why not get out there and see what kind of difference you can make through political action, volunteer work, etc? Getting angry is cool and all, but blind rage doesn't help anything."

Blind rage doesn't. Righteous, armed rage, focused on a specific condition or policy, does. The point of having an armed populace is to keep the government from overstretching its powers into the civil arena. Volunteering is nice, but don't discount insurrection either.

"If the government really wanted to crack down on the population, it would be impossible to stop them."

Bullshit. The amount of force required to effectively quash a whole population is insanely out of proportion to the gains when dealing with an armed populace. See also: Iraq.
posted by klangklangston at 9:25 AM on February 5, 2007


if the harms of having lax gun laws outweigh those of having strict laws, then do you think that a (state) society should enforce strict laws

yes, in fact I do. Note above my comment about gun clubs though. I see no problem with people keeping their guns -- any gun -- at gun clubs to fire off at their pleasure.

This mitigates the public safety risk of too many people running around with military-grade firepower IMV.

Concealable weapons like handguns should be licensed & registered like automobiles, IMV.

Just because something is hazardous does not mean it has to be banned entirely. We need to "strictly" criminalize the anti-social act, and not put so much prior restraint of liberty in place.
posted by Heywood Mogroot at 9:59 AM on February 5, 2007


Heywood, looks like we are most likely in agreement.

ewkpates:

Whether it's gay marriage or gun ownership, I don't have to convince anyone that I deserve the right. You all have to show, beyond all reasonable doubt, that the State can't survive my exercise of a particular natural right in order for us to even begin to discuss limiting it, let alone taking it.

Why would you consider that gun ownership is a natural right?

I'd even question whether it's philosophically useful to speak in terms of natural rights.
posted by spacediver at 10:21 AM on February 5, 2007


"Why would you consider that gun ownership is a natural right?"

Life, and the means to defend it, is the most basic natural right (usually justified through theistic handwaving).

Under positive rights theory, you could argue both a common law tradition and a practical necessity for preserving other rights.
posted by klangklangston at 10:45 AM on February 5, 2007


spacediver, if you think the organizing principle of government is something other than me agreeing to live in a society with you rather than in a state of nature, then clearly philosophical usefulness may give way to practical demonstration.

Unless it can be demonstrated that the State has a compelling interest in divesting me of my rights, then I'm keeping them.

Oh, yeah, and I'm not the only one who thinks so...


Amendment IX
The enumeration in the Constitution, of certain rights, shall not be construed to deny or disparage others retained by the people.


Amendment X
The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the states, are reserved to the states respectively, or to the people.
posted by ewkpates at 11:03 AM on February 5, 2007


ewkpates, I'm just wondering why ownership of firearms is in particular considered to be a natural right.

What exactly do you mean by the term "natural right"?


Klangklangston:

Life, and the means to defend it, is the most basic natural right

Thanks - now that is an answer which makes sense to me.

So my next question is:

given that one can defend themselves using household objects, or their own limbs, or an uzi, why are hand guns considered a balanced option here?

(we obviously allow people the right to bear their own limbs, but we don't allow uzis)
posted by spacediver at 11:52 AM on February 5, 2007


I had heard of Robert Williams, but never of Radio Free Dixie. That's almost a post into and of itself. Thanks for the links!
posted by 1f2frfbf at 12:41 PM on February 5, 2007


What exactly do you mean by the term "natural right"?

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. — That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed blah blah blah...
posted by Heywood Mogroot at 12:44 PM on February 5, 2007


why are hand guns considered a balanced option here?

because the threat of deadly force in defense of one's own life is proportional, and I don't want to bring a coffee table leg to a gunfight.
posted by Heywood Mogroot at 12:45 PM on February 5, 2007


The view from your residence in FantasyLand must be incredible.

This, from the man who apparently believes this: "And Right Makes Might. If your cause is just (enough) you'll have more munitions than you will know what to do with, since, believe it or not, the gummint is actually made of people like us."

"The gummint" is NOT made of "people like us" (hint: wealthy, professional politicians are not much "like us", unless you happen to have a couple of mansions, one in DC and one in your home state, and also a million dollars lying around to spend on your next campaign). And "Right Makes Might" is historically laughable -- how can you even define "Right" in this context? There are lists and lists of countries that were conquered militarily, from within or from without, even though the conquerors didn't abide by what the majority of the locals thought was Right. Funny how their being so damn right didn't stop the bullets or bayonets.

Get it through your head: there are situations in which individual Americans might need to fight to defend themselves. Maybe these situations are unlikely to arise, or maybe not -- we can't know the future. As an individual, you can either prepare yourself to fight, or choose not to prepare, and either path is valid... but believing that there's no point in it, for everyone, because "this isn't the 18th Century" is nuts. There are plenty of modern examples of people who have used their guns to defend their lives and freedom, both in the US and elsewhere. Armed citizens are striking blows against the most powerful armies on Earth, right now, in places like Chechnya and Iraq. Guess someone should have told them that it isn't the 18th Century!

And you know this -- you keep a gun in your house for self-defense, if this thread is any indication -- so what's with the constant snark? If you're so willing to rely on the system to protect you, and you're so willing to allow the state to take that gun to mitigate the "public safety risk", why don't you just get rid of it and walk your own damn talk?

about the self defense - from what I understand, the number of lives saved from such scenarios are pretty rare, especially when compared to the numbers of lives lost due to legally owned guns.

It's hard to say, since figuring the number of lives saved would be an exercise in supposition, but I'd guess that you're probably correct. However, I would argue that the state needs to have a lot more than vague public-safety in mind if it intends to remove the right to self-defense, simply because this right is so fundamental. Firearms are way down the list as a cause of death in this country. Are about 29,000 deaths per year (and that's from all firearms, not just legal ones... and don't forget that significantly more people die from suicide by firearm each year than from firearm assault) really worth violating one of our most important rights and giving the government yet another excuse to increase the number of people in the jails? We're not about to ban tobacco and alcohol, and together they kill about 17 times more people each year than guns do.

we don't allow uzis

Speak for yourself. Uzis and similar weapons are perfectly legal to own in my state -- I missed out on a very good price for a surplus AK-47 at the local hardware store a couple of years ago. You can even own fully automatic rifles in New Mexico, if you have the proper license. And no, we haven't descended into a morass of violent gun deaths yet, but thanks for asking! :)
posted by vorfeed at 1:09 PM on February 5, 2007 [1 favorite]


because the threat of deadly force in defense of one's own life is proportional, and I don't want to bring a coffee table leg to a gunfight.

Right, which means that there is more to consider, when deciding what freedoms should be allowed, than simply "the right to defend one's life"

(in other words, I sorta recoil against the argument that the right to bear arms is a natural right - I much prefer the derivation of the right to bear certain arms as being derived from the right to defend one's life, and I much prefer a rational analysis of the range of appropriate means of defenses which should be allowed).

It may indeed be the case that the freedom to own personal hand guns is one which is rational to allow - since I've never studied or reflected on this issue in much depth, I am refraining from forming a judgement, but after listening to some of the thoughts presented here, if I had to make a choice right now, I'd err on the side of allowing them.

p.s. it's been a pleasure discussing this with you heywood.
posted by spacediver at 5:28 PM on February 5, 2007


Speak for yourself. Uzis and similar weapons are perfectly legal to own in my state

Ah i just assumed they were illegal. My bad.

gun culture doesn't figure much here in downtown toronto.
posted by spacediver at 5:42 PM on February 5, 2007


Ah i just assumed they were illegal. My bad.

Well, to be honest, in some states they are illegal. It all depends on the law in your particular state -- many states ban fully automatic weapons, and some also have various "assault weapon" bans (usually these include semiautomatic rifles with certain features like a folding stock, a bayonet lug, a pistol grip, high-capacity magazines, etc.) Also, the federal government has restrictions on which fully automatic guns you can buy, even if they're legal in your state. In particular, full-autos registered after 1986 are no longer legal for civilians, due to a last-minute provision added to the Firearm Owners Protection Act. Thus, if you want a legal fully-automatic gun, you have to buy it from someone who has a "pre-ban" gun for sale. Unfortunately, as far as I can tell this has done more to raise the prices of these guns than it has to limit their numbers...
posted by vorfeed at 6:11 PM on February 5, 2007


why don't you just get rid of it and walk your own damn talk?

I'm all for responsible gun ownership. I just think you should re-think your scenarios of personally holding off the police with armed resistance.

Nahgonnahappen; they consider these kind of tactical problems quite fun nuts to crack [ha hah I made a funny], and have nearly infinite resources at their command. cf. the Whiskey Rebellion, 1861-1865, Philadelphia in 1985, Ruby Ridge, Waco, etc.
posted by Heywood Mogroot at 6:55 PM on February 5, 2007


I'm all for responsible gun ownership. I just think you should re-think your scenarios of personally holding off the police with armed resistance.
Nahgonnahappen; they consider these kind of tactical problems quite fun nuts to crack [ha hah I made a funny], and have nearly infinite resources at their command. cf. the Whiskey Rebellion, 1861-1865, Philadelphia in 1985, Ruby Ridge, Waco, etc.


Most of those people died fighting, rather than on their knees in jail. In that sort of situation, that's all I ask.
posted by vorfeed at 8:15 PM on February 5, 2007


ah, yo comprendo.
posted by Heywood Mogroot at 8:46 PM on February 5, 2007


An African-American activist at the court of Mao. Blog post at the excellent Granite Studio has a little more on Williams' time in China.
posted by Abiezer at 4:26 AM on February 17, 2007


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